Category Archives: Raphael Volunteers

BHOLA The gentle man who touched so many hearts



Bhola painting with volunteer at Raphael

It is with a heavy heart, we inform you about the sad demise of Bhola, one of our permanent residents who came to Raphael in 1959, the year of our establishment and left for his heavenly abode on 2nd January 2017.

Life has unexpected twists and turns and often what seems to be the very end may turn out to be the beginning of a beautiful story – a story of reaching out, of love and care, of helping hands extended in assistance to fellow travellers in life’s remarkable journey.  Such has been the story of Bhola’s life. It is one which touches the well spring of human compassion, tenderness in human interaction and it spans countries.

Bhola’s story begins with pain and rejection: a handicapped four year old left to die on the railway tracks by despairing parents dejected perhaps by the challenges of poverty and of the child’s physical weakness.

Bhola as a young man

The story dramatically becomes one of divine intervention as an alert Railway Driver jams brakes at the very last moment to save the life of the child. It then weaves through the patient and determined efforts of the newly established Raphael institution (1959) in bringing up Bhola – a victim of severe spasticity, who had severe speech limitations and was completely dependent on others for all his needs.

It was indeed remarkable that despite his severe physical limitations Bhola had learnt to paint holding the paintbrush in his mouth. Protected and sustained physically, Bhola was also nurtured emotionally.  Residents of Raphael loved Bhola like an elder sibling, volunteers were concerned for him, teachers supported him.

Love, Concern, Support, that is how one defines a family. Bhola found one in Raphael.  In his willingness to engage with life, Bhola imparted the lesson of strength and courage. Many volunteers and visitors have written in to share how Bhola has impacted their lives. Anne and Phillip Boyd recall being told by Pam Harrison (who in 1959 had started Ava Vihar) how Bhola was able to recognize her at the 2009 Golden Jubilee and even addressed her as “teacher”.

As the first inmate of Raphael, Bhola’s life has illustrated the efforts of Raphael – patience, steadiness and determination in meeting huge odds. In the words of Peter Newton “Bhola personified the spirit of Raphael”


CaptureMy trip to Raphael can be summed up by one word . . . inspirational!

The vision, drive, compassion and commitment of Sue Ryder and Leonard Cheshire leave me in awe.

Others have said it before me but I will say it too . . . Raphael is a haven for the lucky few that call it home, enter through the arch way to learn, receive health care and a place where love and safety are provided.

The lady who first sparked my interest and inspired me to visit Raphael was Joh.

Continue reading Karen

Liz and John

Our impression of Dehradun as we arrived at Jolly Grant Airport was of a verdant oasis with the picturesque Garhwal hills behind, signalling the mighty Himalayan peaks beyond. On arrival we found Raphael was a peaceful environment and the staff were most welcoming and informative, so we quickly felt “at home”.
As it was the school holidays for the first two weeks this gave us the opportunity to interact with the staff and residents of Ava Vihar, Shiv Sadan, the Little White House and the Chronic ward. The teachers discussed their comprehensive programs and there was much sharing of ideas and activities which the staff were eager to incorporate.

Nature walk with Ava Vihar Residents-resized to 50%We enjoyed interacting with the residents of Ava Vihar and the Little White House and joined in with the music and singing sessions which were a popular time.  We contributed new songs to their repertoire and joined their nature walks. Art activities and Physical activities were shared times also. John joined the boys from the Little White House for cricket in the sultry summer evenings and was impressed with their natural ability!

Continue reading Liz and John


My Raphael Family

Karen COWTONI have been asked to submit an article about my time at Raphael in October/November 2014 but I just don’t know where to start.  My 19 yr old daughter and I spent almost two months at Raphael so you would think I could come up with something.  My fear is not being able to do Raphael justice  in  just one short article. I have thought of every excuse under the sun not to write the article but here I am attempting to write it none the less. Continue reading Karen